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In The Lead: Step Away from Your Screen Katie Yurechko ’24 blends her studies in computer science, philosophy, and poverty and human capability to make technology more equitable — and to connect communities.

Katie-Yurechko-Photo-scaled-800x533 In The Lead: Step Away from Your ScreenKatie Yurechko ’24

I deleted my social media at the age of 16. Today, informed by my history with addictive and exploitative social media algorithms, I am passionate about eradicating algorithmic injustice.

This led me to major in computer science and philosophy, with a minor in poverty and human capability studies. I believe that to address the harms propagated by technologies, we must analyze them from interdisciplinary lenses.

Last summer, I conducted research at Carnegie Mellon University. Interviewing TikTok creators with marginalized identities, I helped show how they felt forced to erase their identity-based language by, for example, changing “lesbian” to “le$bean” to avoid algorithmic suppression of their content.

After talking with people exhausted by fighting invisible algorithmic harms, my colleagues (Carnegie Mellon professor Daniel Klug and Gordon College student Ella Steen) and I published an academic paper and presented it this spring at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Web Conference in Austin, Texas.

WebConference-scaled-800x533 In The Lead: Step Away from Your ScreenElla Steen (Gordon College) and Katie Yurechko ’24

Uplifting technologically silenced voices brought me to reflect on my experiences with the Shepherd Program. As president of the Nabors Service League, co-president of Volunteer Venture, vice president of the Campus Kitchen, and a Bonner Scholar at the Community Foundation for Rockbridge, Bath and Alleghany (CFRBA), I have striven to weave together the worlds of computing and social justice.

I have interned at the Campus Kitchen, reorganizing its online file storage to improve the volunteer experience. I redesigned CFRBA’s website to better connect donors with community-led initiatives. And I spearheaded Tech Equity thematic programming for Nabors and worked with co-leaders tocombat technological injustices amongst students and faculty.

I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in social or societal computing. Until then, I am eager to continue stepping outside of often-isolating screens and engaging with others in the Rockbridge community.

On Dec. 11, the British government announced that Yurechko was one of 51 scholars chosen this year to begin graduate studies next fall at universities across the United Kingdom. Read more here.